Saturday, December 31, 2016

Year in Review: 5 Top 5

As in years past, I like to wind down the blogging year with a look back. It is helpful for me to see what I accomplished and where I need to focus my research energies in the coming year. Frankly, what I see is rather pathetic. No surprise there. In particular, the last four months of 2016 have been the pits as my research came to a grinding halt. Even my beloved Sepia Saturday, my favorite meme for over 4 years, was woefully neglected. What’s more, my break from indexing lasted longer than I intended. Even my participation in the simplest activity like the Genealogy Photo a Day challenge on Instagram fell apart after a few days. What is wrong with me?  Never in my life have I been glad to see a year end.

As if the year itself is to blame.

I hope 2017 gives me a swift kick in the you-know-where to put me back on track.

Top 5 Blog Posts
See how sad this is. Four of the top 5 posts were from the A to Z APRIL Challenge. April! Month #4. The other was from early January. So after April, my blog views went downhill. Waaa!
  1.          H is for Handwriting
  2.          A Funny Thing Happened
  3.          F is for Friends on Frailey
  4.          B is for Baby Stuff
  5.          N is for Newton’s Nursery

Top 5 Personal Connections
1. While I was planning my blog about attending Newton’s Nursery as a child, I posted a request on a Facebook group for people who grew up in Portsmouth. I was looking for a photo of a Tom Thumb wedding. One person responded with a photo. I recognized her name immediately. It was Phyllis Carruthers, one of the daughters of my maternal grandfather’s cousin. As a child and teenager, I had met Phyllis and her sister Mary Lee several times while shopping with my mother, but ours was never a close social relationship. So when I sent Phyllis a message, I explained who I am. She called me right away. She and Mary Lee wanted to get together. It turns out they have been working on their family genealogy too, and they were hoping I could help them with some of their questions. Unfortunately for me, they are more interested in their father’s side because his story is so full of holes and mysteries. Still, it was a fantastic meeting. They brought pictures and cleared up some questions I had about their grandmother, one of the sisters of my great-grandmother Mary Frances Jollett Davis.

2. Probably most of us have some vague shadowy recollection of a person from the past, someone at an event, someone who seemed always to be at Aunt So-n-so’s house but we don’t know why. Who was that person? A relative? A family friend? Well, my shadowy recollection contacted me after Googling his grandmother’s name and finding my blog. It is Cliff Reeves, grandson of my grandaunt Mae Killeen Holland. I remember being at his wedding reception hosted by my grandaunt Helen Killeen Parker, Mae’s sister. Cliff did not really remember me, but he had those vague shadowy recollections of my parents and grandparents. He has pictures to share – can’t wait to see them!

Some very brief connections brought big results.
3. Sandi Craig sent me a copy of the will of our shared ancestor, Edward Herndon.

4. Doug Jenkins has studied the Wilsons of Rockbridge County extensively. While he did not have precise information about my 2X great grandmother Martha Ann Wilson Davis, he offered a clue. One of the bondsmen for her marriage to Mitchell Davis was Daniel Hileman. Doug proposes that based on the 1850 census for Daniel Hileman, our Wilsons were likely related to Nathaniel Wilson who died in Rockbridge County in 1818. Now let me see if I can connect some dots from Nathaniel to Martha’s father Samuel.

5. Joe Glynn alerted me to a child I had missed. Actually I am not related to the Glynns; they are descendants of the sister of John Joseph Killeen, my great-grandmother’s first husband. But I collect Glynn names and facts in the hopes they will further my research on the Sheehans and Walshes.

Top 5 Genealogy-Related Activities
  1. Serving my third year on Thomas MacEntee’s Geneabloggers MIITY team (we interview other bloggers for the “May I Introduce to You” series)
  2. Being inducted into the DAR and jumping right in by agreeing to serve as Registrar
  3. Indexing the day books of tailor Joseph Hamm for the Greene County Historical Society
  4. Participating in Amy Johnson Crow’s 31-Days to Better Genealogy
  5. Meeting the 30-day Genealogy Photo a Day challenge on Instagram for October and most of November (but falling WAY short in December) 

Top 5 Discoveries
1. It’s hardly MY discovery, but with the help of Dara at Black Raven Genealogy, I have learned more than I ever thought possible about my Sheehan family who emigrated one daughter at a time from Ireland to New York in the late 1800s. I sent Dara what I knew – or thought I knew – about Mary Theresa Sheehan and her sisters and brother. She found their birth and baptism information. Finally I had their REAL names, not nicknames, and not faulty guesses. Research was productive. Names signed to greeting cards in Mary Theresa’s scrapbook began to make sense.

2. An inquiry about Union camps in Jollett Hollow sent me looking for answers. One source led to another source which led to another and before I knew it, I was looking at a Revolutionary War-era ancestor: Frances Jolly/Jollett and Richard Gaines. Frances had been a question mark in my Jollett timeline for many MANY years. While I do not yet know how she is related, I have found her descendants and some leads to push back another generation or two.

3. During the 31 Days to Better Genealogy challenge, Amy Johnson Crow recommended we look at Linkpendium. Not expecting much, I typed “Jollett” into a worldwide search. One of the hits was the Kanawha County (West Virginia) Family Tree Project. Kanawha?? I didn’t know of any Jolletts in Kanawha. But there they were! Melinda Jollett and her husband Thomas Marsh, aka MASH. Now I know why I could never find them after 1850. I imagined they all had been massacred. No. Just a lazy southern drawl lost the “r.”

4. A death record released last year in Virginia for Julia Booton Keane named Reuben Booton as her father and Mary Jollett as her mother. I was all excited about researching a NEW ancestor when I received an email from a descendant of L. L. Kean, the informant on Julia’s death certificate. Marriage records show that Reuben was married to Mary Anderson, not Mary Jollett. The descendant has a note next to Mary’s name saying “Adopted by aunt Miss Sampson.” So WHO exactly was adopted by Miss Sampson? And who was Miss Sampson? And why did Lonzo Kean think his grandmother was Mary Jollett rather than Anderson? This discovery is yet to be completed, but it is nevertheless a discovery.

5. When I decided to work on a Jollett Family Reunion book, I planned brief biographies of James Franklin Jollett’s wives and children. That led me to learn how the Jolletts came to live in Harriston in the first place. It also revealed the many children Frank and Eliza informally adopted as well as their long-term care for adopted son James Ira Sullivan. I researched his birth family too.

Top 5 Best Money Spent
  1. DAR courses in preparation for my new role as Registrar for the Fort Nelson Chapter
  2. Boston trip to see the exhibit of my father’s Coast Guard photos
  3. Fold3
  4. Ancestry
  5. Newspaper Archive

I have lots to do in 2017. Let’s get this party started!

© 2016, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Sepia Saturday: Snow Stories

Sepia Saturday challenges bloggers to share family history through old photographs.

This week Sepia Saturday is all about snow. Here on the east coast of Virginia, an annual snow event is not a given. We are just as likely to get snow in October or March as in a winter month. In 2015, we ran the air conditioner Christmas Eve. A white Christmas is rare. Growing up, I never asked for a sled or toboggan, ice skates or skis. In fact, I’ve gone years with no snow boots. So it is not surprising that my snow memories are few.


Jordan snowboarding
Daughter snowboarding 1990 something --
she will have some snow memories for sure!
Nothing is more beautiful than new-fallen snow. It begs to be rolled into balls as ammunition in a friendly fight or formed into snowmen. It invites us to get out and play, to find a hill to sled down. Maybe that was how my dad felt back in January 1959 when he coaxed my mother onto a sled, not to race down a hill but simply to pull her up and down snow-covered Frailey Place for the fun of it. She was a full 9-months pregnant, just days before delivering my much-wished-for baby sister.

It was a wonderful afternoon. All the neighbors were out making snowmen and pulling one another on sleds. It’s a good thing too because when Momma was done with sledding, it took Daddy and three other men to get her up off that sled. Momma was not one to recover easily from public humiliation. I don’t think she got on a sled ever again after that.
Snow 1965 Portsmouth, Virginia
Sister, Me, Momma in 1965
6 years after the sled incident

After the Great Humiliation of 1959, you would think Momma might also have quit listening to my dad’s ideas, but no. In the late 1970s, a heavy snowfall covered the roads making them treacherous for several days. When cabin fever set in, Daddy decided it would be fun to walk from their neighborhood to mine, only about 2 miles. Of course, our family is rarely prepared for disaster, and that was one of those years when Momma had no snow boots. Solution? Daddy tied plastic garbage bags over her shoes, and they set off on their 2-mile walk through the snow. Have you ever walked in plastic bags? There is no traction. There is, however, a lot of slipping involved. Quite the cardio-workout.


Being caught off-guard is nothing new for our family, and we never learn our lesson. However, that is not the case for my city and the surrounding cities. At the first sign of even a remote POSSIBILITY of one little snowflake, Hampton Roads kicks into gear salting roads and bridges. We learned a powerful lesson in March of 1980.

I don’t know how all school systems work, but here in Virginia, public schools must be in session a certain number of days. Every year “snow days” are built into the school calendar allowing the schools to close in bad weather or for other emergencies without having to extend the school year in order to make up lost days. In case a school must close early for whatever reason, the rule is that if lunch was served, it counts as a full day.

So on March 2, 1980, it started to snow. And snow hard. I was teaching – or trying to before I just gave up because the students and I couldn’t keep from looking out the windows. We could tell by the look of the sky that this was no routine snow. This was going to be big. But it wasn’t lunch time yet. Teachers kept popping in and out of each other’s classrooms. “Are we closing early? Have you heard anything yet?” Hours went by. Finally the last lunch was served and we were sent home.

My mother, also a teacher, inched her way from her school to mine, picked me up, and we headed for home which was just 5 miles away, usually a 15-minute drive. As we approached the Churchland Bridge, we saw that cars were sliding back down, unable to climb the icy grade. There was nothing to do but make a slow u-turn and try another route. That day it took us TWO HOURS to get home.

At least we got home. People who had gone to the Circus at Scope in Norfolk were stranded there over night when the cities declared a travel curfew.

Now whenever there is snow in Hampton Roads, film clips and reports of “the Circus Blizzard of 1980” are brought out again.
March 2, 1980
photo courtesy Harvey T. Siegel

Snow is a two-edged sword.

Bundle up and head over to Sepia Saturday for more stories of snow.

© 2016, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Sepia Saturday: Sister Dea

Sepia Saturday challenges bloggers to share family history through old photographs.

As Sepia Saturday turns to thoughts of the holiday season with a vintage German calendar, I am reminded of this Christmas card from 1935.

1935 Christmas card from Dea Christian to Mary Theresa Sheehan Walsh

1935 Christmas card from Dea Christian to Mary Theresa Sheehan Walsh

It was sent by Delia “Dea” Sheehan Christian to her sister Mary Theresa Sheehan Killeen Walsh, my father’s maternal grandmother.

If the sheer number of cards from Dea in Mary Theresa’s scrapbook can be relied on as evidence of their relationship, they were close despite the ten years age difference and the 400 miles that separated them.

Born January 26, 1879 in Limerick, Ireland, Dea was the baby of the family of Daniel Sheehan and Bridget Gorman. When she reached the age of 17, she immigrated to the United States just as her sisters had done previously.

In 1900 she was living in Manhattan, New York with an aunt and uncle, John and Delia Hogan. Four years later she married William Henry Christian. They had a baby girl right away, but she did not survive. Five more children came in regular intervals, but sadly one baby boy did not live.

Julia Walsh with Grace and Elmyra Christian
Grace Christian, Julia Walsh (my grandmother),
and Elmyra Christian 

While Dea ran the household, her husband William worked as a shipping clerk for a time. In 1920, they were a farm family in William’s home state New Jersey, but by 1925 they were back in New York, Brooklyn to be exact. William went into the dry cleaning business.

Dea died June 8, 1942, in Brooklyn.

Even though I found Dea’s granddaughter on Facebook, I have been unable to learn anything new about this family. Promised photos never came. Questions were never answered. Family trees on Ancestry posted by descendants of Dea’s daughter Grace know less than I do. They do not even know Dea’s maiden name. They also do not know names and dates associated with Grace’s brothers Raymond and William and sister Elmyra.

Evidently the affection and regard for family in one generation does not always pass to the next generation. Still, since someone posted a family tree, I have hope that eventually I can learn more about a much loved sister.

Delia Sheehan (26 Jan 1879 Croom, Limerick, Ireland – 8 Jun 1942 Brooklyn, New York ) & William Henry Christian (1 Nov 1881 New Brunswick, New Jersey) married 24 Apr 1904 Manhattan, New York
  • Baby Girl (1904 – 29 Oct 1904 Manhattan, New York)
  • Elmyra Dorothy (29 Jun 1907 New York – 29 Mar 1996 New York) & Edward T. Zarek (9 Sep 1909 Rhode Island – 8 Mar 1978 New York) married 1942
  • William (1910 – 27 Sep 1910 Manhattan, New York)
  • Grace (6 Jan 1912 New York – 19 Mar 1997 Ossining, New York) & Charles Anthony Smith (1907 Brooklyn, New York – 2 Dec 1965 Brooklyn, New York)
  • Raymond (1915 New York – ) & Theodora Brown (22 Jul 1918 – 2006 Westbury, New York)
  • William Patrick (17 Mar 1918 New York – 17 Jan 2002 Flushing, New York) & Mildred Mae Meyer (1 Nov 1920 Brooklyn, New York – 28 Jul 1970 Brooklyn New York)
Please visit Sepia Saturday to see what others have marked on the calendar.

© 2016, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Genealogy Photo a Day 13: Document

Genealogy Photo a Day is a month-long challenge coordinated by Genealogy Girl Talks.

I love stumbling into a document I wasn’t even looking for. 

Marriage Bond Nancy Jollett and Hiram Garnes

This marriage bond for Nancy Jollett and Hiram Garnes surfaced during a research trip to the Rockingham County, Virginia court house. My goal that day was to find Davis documents that would satisfy the DAR standards for proving lineage to a Revolutionary War patriot. But heck, I was there anyway, so why not check the index for Jolletts too.

And there it was: a marriage bond for Nancy Jollett. Who? The two Nancy Jolletts I knew of were Jollett by virtue of marriage. Nancy Walker married my 4X great-grandfather James Jollett and Nancy Glass married their son Simeon Jollett. So who was this young Nancy Jollett getting married in Rockingham?

One clue was the bondsman George Sampson. George was married to Drada Jollett, daughter of James and Nancy Walker Jollett. Perhaps Nancy was a sister to Drada. If so, then there is another question to answer: why was she not living in Greene County with her parents?

Look for me on Instagram (@Wendymath27) and Twitter (@Wendymath).
© 2016, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Genealogy Photo a Day 12: Occupation

Genealogy Photo a Day is a month-long challenge coordinated by Genealogy Girl Talks.

I never knew my granduncle Arthur Henry “Woody” Woodring, but my mother always said he and Velma were the fun aunt and uncle. It is easy to see why since in every photo, he has a big smile.

Except in this one. It’s his Game Face.
Woody Woodring Summer 1926
Woody Woodring, catcher
Summer 1926
playing for the Shenandoah shops
Woody was a professional baseball player for a time. He worked on the electrical force of the Norfolk & Western Railroad in Shenandoah, Virginia. In the 1920s N&W sponsored a number of sports teams including basketball and baseball teams that competed against teams from other towns along the N&W line.

Woody was playing on the shops team even while he began his professional baseball career as a catcher in 1924 for the Martinsburg Blue Sox, evidently playing both at the same time. The Blue Sox were part of the Blue Ridge League comprised of six level D (Rookie) teams from Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Maryland.

In those days, the team with the best record for the season became the league champions.  It was Woody’s first year on the team but the Martinsburg Blue Sox’s third straight championship title. The play-off system didn’t start until 1928, the same year that some major league teams started affiliating with the minor teams.  Woody’s team was affiliated with what was then the Philadelphia Athletics.  Other teams were affiliated with the New York Yankees, Cleveland Indians, Detroit Tigers, St. Louis Cardinals, and Washington Senators.

When I told Woody’s story in 2012, it appeared his last season was in 1929. However, I have since discovered that is not so. Apparently the Blue Ridge League continued. In 1930, Woody was released from the Blue Sox and picked up by the Cumberland (Maryland) Colts, an affiliate of the New York Yankees. At some point he returned to the Blue Sox as manager as well as a playing member. A news article dated May 31, 1934 reported he resigned as manager because it interfered with his business interests – whatever they were.

Look for me on Instagram (@Wendymath27) and Twitter (@Wendymath).

© 2016, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Genealogy Photo a Day 11: Green

Genealogy Photo a Day is a month-long challenge coordinated by Genealogy Girl Talks.

This ruffle top lemonade pitcher is one of the many family heirlooms that have come to me. Unfortunately, I do not know its real history. Since it had been in the home of my grandaunt Violetta Davis Ryan, the pitcher might have belonged to her mother Mary Frances Jollett Davis. Or Violetta might have inherited it when her sister Velma Davis Woodring passed away. Then again, it is entirely possible Violetta bought it herself from an antiques dealer.

The hand-painted deer in snow seems to be an unusual design. Most ruffle top pitchers that I have seen in shops and online have painted flowers and vines.

The lemonade pitcher was quite popular in the Victorian era when lemonade was often served as an alternative to alcohol. In fact, Lucy Hayes, wife of President Rutherford B. Hayes, was nicknamed “Lemonade Lucy” because no alcohol was allowed in the White House during her husband’s presidency.

I wonder if Lucy Hayes owned ruffle top pitchers.

Look for me on Instagram (@Wendymath27) and Twitter (@Wendymath).

© 2016, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Genealogy Photo a Day 10: Time

Genealogy Photo a Day is a month-long challenge coordinated by Genealogy Girl Talks.

When our parents passed away and my sister and I cleaned out their house, we divided the family heirlooms as fairly as we could. There were four clocks that had been in the family for many years, how many we do not know. She got two and I got two.

Not a one of them works.

Techtron Clock belonging to Orvin and Lucille Davis

My sister took our maternal grandfather’s Techtron clock with its nautical design featuring a ship’s wheel and drawing of an anchor. The Techtron is notorious for being difficult to repair. 

Adamantine mantle clock from Sudie Eppard Rucker

At least she has the beautiful Seth Thomas Adamantine mantle clock from our great-grandmother Sudie Eppard Rucker. If we could get the thing to work consistently, the hourly chime would be delightful.

As for me, I took these.

Heirloom clocks

The Ansonia porcelain clock that belonged to our grandaunt Velma Davis Woodring is lovely and complements my living room d├ęcor perfectly. The Seth Thomas mantle clock belonging to our grandaunt Helen Killeen Parker is hiding out in a bedroom, not ticking at all, forever 6:40. As the old joke goes, at least it is correct twice a day.

All these clocks need repair. We just can’t find the time. (Har Har – yeah, I kill me!)

Look for me on Instagram (@Wendymath27) and Twitter (@Wendymath).

© 2016, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Genealogy Photo a Day 9: Brick Wall

Genealogy Photo a Day is a month-long challenge coordinated by Genealogy Girl Talks.

The sisters and brothers of my great-grandmother Mary Theresa Sheehan Killeen Walsh have constructed a brick wall that would make Donald Trump drool.
Unknown man and baby New York City 1918
Is this John Sheehan in 1918?
Who is this man standing APPROPRIATELY in front of a BRICK WALL? The baby has been identified in other photos sometimes as “Bob” and sometimes as “Barbie.” Yes, it’s a girl. I THINK this man is the grandfather. But is he Mary Theresa’s brother John Sheehan? Or is he the husband of one of her sisters?

Since the man is dressed in some sort of uniform, I can easily rule out a couple of the husbands.
  • Not Patrick Hederman, Johanna’s husband. He was a porter in a grocery store and a coffee roaster.
  • Not William Christian, Delia’s husband. He ran a dry cleaners.
  • Possibly Patrick Byrnes, Elizabeth’s husband. He was a chauffeur. Is this the uniform of a chauffeur?
  • Possibly John Nagle, Margaret’s husband. He was a bank guard. This uniform bears some resemblance to a police uniform. 

Narrowing down the possibilities is further aided by another clue: Bob/Barbie’s brother John JR. Clearly there must be a John SR. I was excited to discover that Elizabeth and Patrick Byrnes had a son John. However, he was born in 1903, making him too young to be father of John Jr. in 1917. Margaret and John Nagle also had a son John, but he was born in 1911, again far too young to be John Jr’s father.

Perhaps John SR was husband to one of Mary Theresa’s nieces. 

Mary Theresa Walsh in New York 1921
New York City 1921
Mary Theresa Sheehan Killeen Walsh with "Bob" and John Jr.
and probably their mother. Is this woman her niece?
Could she be the daughter of John Sheehan?

However, only Johanna had children old enough to be parents in 1917. Her son John never married. Her daughter Catherine married a man named Charles Fraundorf and they had only one daughter.

So I think the man must be Mary Theresa’s brother John Sheehan. Do you know how many John Sheehans lived in New York City in the early 1900s? Attempts to pinpoint the correct John Sheehan have been frustrating with nothing to show for my efforts.  

The Brick Wall stands.

Look for me on Instagram (@Wendymath27) and Twitter (@Wendymath).

© 2016, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Genealogy Photo a Day 8: Home

Genealogy Photo a Day is a month-long challenge coordinated by Genealogy Girl Talks.

When the Jolletts started holding family reunions around 1914, they convened annually at the home of James Franklin Jollett in Jollett Springs, Augusta County, Virginia, until his death in 1930. Photos from those reunions offer only brief glimpses of the Jollett home. I can tell it was a two-story white clapboard farmhouse with an addition, likely a kitchen. The roof was tin. Grape vines growing on trellises probably offered some respite during humid summers. The best feature, though, was that the Jolletts possessed the quintessential icon of the American dream home: a white picket fence.

Jollett Reunion 1921
Reunion 1921 - the Jollett sisters and brothers and spouses
Standing: Laura Jollett Sullivan, Sadie Lam Jollett, Ulysses Jollett, Leanna Jollett Knight, Mary Frances Jollett Davis and Walter Davis (my great-grandparents), Sallie Jollett Clift, Victoria Jollett Breeden, Decatur Breeden, James Ira Sullivan
Seated: Will Sullivan, Jack Coleman, Emma Jollett Coleman, James Franklin Jollett
(my 2X great-grandfather) and his wife Eliza Jane Coleman Jollett

I assume the photos were taken in the back yard, but it is difficult to say.

When I get a ride on that Time Machine, I plan to visit the Jollett home place to see for myself.

Look for me on Instagram (@Wendymath27) and Twitter (@Wendymath).

© 2016, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Genealogy Photo a Day 7: Gratitude

Genealogy Photo a Day is a month-long challenge coordinated by Genealogy Girl Talks.

I wish I had photos for all the new-to-me cousins who deserve my gratitude for reaching out to me with questions, corrections, and updates about our shared ancestors. They have enriched my life and my genealogy research. I especially appreciate those who enjoy collaborating to solve a puzzle. If I start naming names, I will leave out someone important, so I’ll mention only Shirley Ziemer by name because I have a picture of her.
Wendy and Shirley Ziemer 2008
Wendy and Shirley
Shirley and I have gotten together a couple times and have chatted by phone. Most often though we email since she lives in Indiana and does not get to Virginia often. She and I have collaborated on the family of John Sampson and Clarissa Jollett, her 3X great-grandparents. Clarissa was sister to my 3X great-grandfather Fielding Jollett.

Look for me on Instagram (@Wendymath27) and Twitter (@Wendymath).

© 2016, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Genealogy Photo a Day: Week in Review

Genealogy Photo a Day is a month-long challenge coordinated by Genealogy Girl Talks.

Good grief. My plan was to post each day’s Instagram photo here on my blog during the November Photo A Day Challenge. I am sure you don’t want to hear how this thing and that got in the way, so I’ll just do a “Week in Review” and hope that things go better next week.

Day 2 – Ancestor
Susan Jordan Shiflett and family
Older woman seated is Susan Jordan Shiflett, my 3x great-grandmother.
The tall girl standing is possibly Segourney Shiflett Eppard,
my 2x great-grandmother
photo courtesy of Mary Garrett
I was over the moon when I got a Facebook message from Jan Hensley and an email from Mary Garrett asking me to help identify people in this photo. Mary is a descendant of the seated woman on the left, Jenetta Dovel Shiplett. In their early married life, Jenetta and husband Philip Pendleton Shiplett lived with his mother Susan Jordan Shiflett. Mary and Jan feel confident the older woman, seated on the right, was Susan, my 3X great-grandmother. They also think that the other girls in the photo are a combination of Susan’s children and grandchildren. The taller girl standing is most likely Susan’s daughter Segourney, my 2X great-grandmother. I hope they are right. Isn’t she just beautiful?

Day 3 – Headstone
Daisey Clift tombstone

dau of
Geo T and Sallie
died Apr 8, 1897

Aged 3 yrs 6 mos and 8 days
Suffer the little children to come 
unto me and forbid them not 
for to such is the kingdom of heaven.

One of the saddest little headstones in my collection of photos is this one. Little Daisey Clift and her brother Vernon, children of my great-grandmother’s sister Sallie Jollett Clift, died from injuries suffered in a house fire in 1897. I would like to locate a newspaper article. Surely the loss of two little ones under age 5 had to have been big news in Page County, but none of the newspaper databases include those from Page County or the closest big city of Harrisonburg.

Day 4 – Weathered
Wilmer Mathias

My husband’s uncle Wilmer posed proudly for this photo outside his parents’ home in Mathias, West Virginia some time during World War II. Whenever Barry and his brothers and sisters get together, they always recall their favorite times at their grandparents’ home. I visited this home only once. Those weathered boards were painted white when I was there, but the house itself looked much the same – very simple and rustic, devoid of any ornamentation or signs of having been remodeled EVER. But inside, the house was warm. The sun poured in through those big windows. It felt very cozy, and I could imagine all the cakes and pies and cookies that the Mathias kids enjoyed thanks to their grandmother Essie’s good cooking.

Day 5 – Recipe
Fruit cake recipe

And speaking of cooking, here is one of 5 recipes for fruit cake that I found in a notebook passed down to me from my great-grandmother Mary Frances Jollett Davis. I don’t know who needs 1 recipe for fruit cake let alone 5. There were other recipes too, mostly lots of desserts.

Day 6 – Tool
Scale from the Davis Store

This scale came from the Davis Store built by my great-grandfather Walter Davis and run by my grandparents Orvin and Lucille Rucker Davis until they moved to Portsmouth in the 1940s. It is not a very large scale, so I doubt it was weighing out huge bags of flour and brown sugar. Actually, I cannot imagine what they might have weighed.

Look for me on Instagram (@Wendymath27) and Twitter (@Wendymath).

© 2016, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Genealogy Photo a Day 1: My View

Genealogy Photo a Day is a month-long challenge coordinated by Genealogy Girl Talks.

October was Family History Month. As part of that celebration, I participated in a Photo a Day challenge on Instagram coordinated by Genealogy Girl Talks. The fun continues this month with the following themes:

I’ll be posting on Instagram (@Wendymath27 and #genealogyphotoaday), Twitter when I remember (@Wendymath), and in our Facebook group.

Day 1: My View

Mary Eleanor Davis about 1933-34 Shenandoah, Virginia

While this isn’t MY view, it is an interesting view to me because the 4 buildings seen in the photo tell a small family history. That is my mother Mary Eleanor Davis at about age 4 or 5, dating the photo to 1933-34. She is standing in her grandparents’ yard. There Walter Davis built a Sears Craftsman at 411 Sixth Street in Shenandoah, Virginia, around 1920 and moved his family from their home across town in Millers Addition.

For a time my grandfather Orvin Davis and his sisters lived there. He even brought his bride Lucille Rucker there too, but soon they moved directly across the street. That is where my mother was born. The steps to the house can be seen in the photo but mostly the house is hidden by the tree.

Granddaddy and his father worked together to build the bungalow next door. That is where my mother grew up until they all moved to Portsmouth during World War II. Prior to the move, my grandparents ran the Davis store, the imposing white building on the corner of Sixth Street and Pennsylvania Avenue.

The family story does not end there. The Davis store was converted into apartments. My cousins lived there as small children, and I can remember the dark floors and being given a bath in the kitchen sink when I was just a toddler. My cousin Barbara remembers the house as cold, drafty, and lacking hot water. She has no fondness for the store building.

In the early 1960s, Barbara’s parents (my mother’s brother) bought the house that Walter built. Her mother (my aunt) still lives there but she is aging and must soon give up the family home. That will be a sad day.

© 2016, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved

Book Review: Marian Burk Wood's Planning a Future for Your Family's Past

Disclaimer:  While I was given this book for free in exchange for a review, I was under no obligation to like it. The opinions expressed are my honest views. I will not be receiving any commission on sales of books by this author.

When our parents died and it was time to clean out their house, my sister and I struggled with what to keep, what to throw away, and how to divide everything fairly. Keeping the family heirlooms was especially important to both of us, but often we could not remember if something had been our mother’s or our grandmother’s and whether it had previously belonged to a great-grandmother or grandaunt and whose side of the family it came from. We vowed not to put our own children through that.

However, I can’t seem to think about the future of all the family heirlooms and my research for any length of time. Who gets what? What if they don’t like it? Will they appreciate its significance? Where do I begin? It’s just too complicated. “What to do with this stuff after I’m gone” is something every genealogist and family historian must consider eventually. The Internet is filled with ideas about future-proofing one’s research. Here’s an idea. There’s an idea. Everywhere an idea. That is why I am grateful that Marian Burk Wood has stepped up to save the day.

In her book Planning a Future for Your Family’s Past Marian provides a PROCESS for making sure our years of hard work and treasures from our ancestors don’t end up in a landfill. I emphasize PROCESS because the book is not a collection of handy-dandy tips and tricks. With what Marian calls “the PASS system,” the overwhelming job of getting our “stuff” ready to pass on is made logical and manageable.

The book is divided into four sections outlining the steps of the PASS system: PREPARE by organizing, ALLOCATE ownership, SET UP a genealogical will, and SHARE with heirs. Each chapter is filled with resources as well as personal examples of her successes and even failures in preserving her family’s history. Even though the chapters are short enough to reread as necessary, she includes a bullet-list of key points at the end of each chapter. I love this feature.

If Marian ever plans a revised edition, I hope she will include MORE photos to illustrate the various storage systems with the accompanying inventories and index. The templates are clear enough, but I do not understand the need for both an inventory and index. That said, Marian writes with such authority that I must believe they both serve a purpose. Perhaps photos showing a “finished product” will be more convincing for readers like me.

Marian’s PASS system makes a great deal of sense if we want our heirs to be able to FIND and UNDERSTAND what we are leaving behind. Family historians who care about what happens to those old photos, wedding certificates, and Granddad’s war medals will want to refer often to Planning a Future for Your Family’s Past.

Marian’s book is available at Amazon in both print and Kindle format.

© 2016, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Sepia Saturday: High Flying

Sepia Saturday challenges bloggers to share family history through old photographs.

This month Sepia Saturday is all about travel to and fro. Since I’ve touched on trains and automobiles, let’s move on to airplanes. The planes in my photos were probably not used for pleasurable travel, however.
Unknown school children on a class trip
Melly, is that our precious Scarlett kneeling in the front row?
This photo seems to be of a class trip to somewhere, but where and why are a mystery. My grandaunt Violetta Davis Ryan taught only in the Shenandoah Valley where the airport was just small and unimpressive, hardly a field trip destination. Perhaps the class was led by my grandaunt Velma Davis Woodring who taught in the American school in Japan and later Korea.  The greater mystery, though, is what Scarlett O’Hara is doing with this class. Oh, fiddle dee dee. I’ll think about that tomorrow.

My granduncle Ray Rucker was a sailor assigned to the USS Colorado in the early 1920s. The ship carried Corsair sea planes for scouting and reconnaissance.

Ray Rucker's photo of seaplane on USS Colorado 1920s

Ray Rucker's photo of seaplane on USS Colorado 1920s

Sailor walking on biplane wing USS Colorado 1920s
Sailor walking on the wings of the float plane

The following two photos of bomber planes are just small professionally produced photo cards. Each one is about 1.5” x 2”. They were among the photos that Ray saved from his days in the Navy.

Souvenir photos belonging to Ray Rucker 1920s

Fasten your seat belts and enjoy the ride to Sepia Saturday.

© 2016, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Sepia Saturday: Fords, Plymouths, and Buicks Oh My!

Sepia Saturday challenges bloggers to share family history through old photographs.

This month Sepia Saturday is all about travel to and fro. Some time ago I was reading the divorce case of my 2X great aunt Sallie Jollett Clift in which she told the judge she had found her husband’s love letters from his mistresses hidden in her stable. Stable? Who has a stable? But it was 1914, after all, so maybe cars were not yet common. Maybe she still relied on a horse and wagon.

I don’t know when my great-grandparents first owned a car, but my great-grandfather Walter Davis was certainly proud of this one.

Walter Davis and car Shenandoah, VA before 1934
Walter Davis before 1934
Shenandoah, VA
Orvin Davis and Mary Eleanor Davis 1929 Shenandoah, VA

My best guess - based on the winged hood ornament - is that his car was a Ford. He died in 1934, so the car predates that year, it’s safe to say.

Velma and Violetta Shenandoah, VA 1928
Velma Davis Woodring and Violetta Davis 1928
in front of their parents' house Shenandoah, VA
In 1928 SOMEBODY owned this car. It was probably Walter. The car was always in front of the house when pictures were taken. The car looks much like the 1928 Plymouth Model Q.

Lucille Davis with Orvin Jr. and cousins Shenandoah, VA
My grandmother on the right

Orvin Jr. at Davis home Shenandoah, VA
Orvin Jr. 1928

Orvin Jr. about 1928 Shenandoah, VA
1928 Rumble Seat
Violetta and Velma and others in the rumble seat 1928
As fun as that rumble seat looks, points for LUXURY go to the Breeden brothers in what appears to be a Buick, judging by those torpedo-esque bumpers.

Wes Breeden, Decatur Breeden, Leota Sullivan, Minnie Breeden, Elta Sullivan, Floral Sullivan
Breeden Brothers and Sullivan Sisters
(my grandfather's cousins) Shenandoah, VA 
While the entire car is not visible, this one driven by my grandmother around 1920-25 takes the prize for those lovely side lamps. Not much of a windshield though.

Lucille Rucker Davis at the wheel
My grandmother
Lucille Rucker Davis
1920-1925 probably
Hop in the touring car and let’s go visit Sepia Saturday.

© 2016, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.